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I don’t exactly remember the first time I heard my Mom tell the Cookie Story. I’ve heard it at least a half-dozen times and when I try really hard to remember the first, I only get to a feeling instead of an actual moment in time.

It feels like summer. Fourth of July. It’s just as hot inside as it is outside. The kitchen windows are open and I can smell a fresh pot of coffee brewing, even though it’s 3 pm.

It feels like my Mom has just sat down to light a cigarette, which means the first time I heard the Cookie Story was at least eight years ago, but it’s probably more like fifteen. It was after I joined the Marine Corps but before my youngest little sister was born — the fifth child my Mom brought into this world. …


A lot has happened since I started Data XD. I’ve been writing a lot, but mainly for work, which is not as regrettable as it sounds.

I bounced from being a product manager at a commercial software company to a product and technology advisor in national security. During that time, I conducted a few really interesting technology evaluations on some of my favorite topics:

  1. Intelligent Discovery, Access, and Use of Data: Yes, I still want my Spotify catalog of federal datasets. You should too.
  2. Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision: What happens when your core assumption of an image… i.e. …


It took me eons to navigate to the Apple subscriptions manager, where I could finally cancel my $9.99 monthly music tribute to iTunes. I decided it was worth the effort because Spotify finally won my eardrums over.

I always had a little beef with Spotify’s UI, so I relegated it to being my backup digital music service provider if I couldn’t find a song I was looking for on iTunes.

Hunting for music is kinda my thing. It’s a psycho-residual trait carried forward from my DJing days in Chicago when I hunted for records to add to my collection of speed garage, nu skool breaks, and progressive house. Nothing too tribal or too cheesy. Nothing super mainstream. I liked dance music that was bass forward, with atmospherics somewhere between spacey and dreamy. I also had a secret love of robotic electro funk. …


DATA XD seeks to publish more unique, engaging content from innovative problem solvers. If you have a story to tell, we’d love to hear from you.

Current topics of interest:

  • Data Analysis: Talk about solving problems by using data in non-traditional ways. Tell us “What’s Your Workflow?”
  • User Experience & User-Centered Design: Share stories about getting to the heart of what users want and love.
  • Product & Project Management: Describe ways of managing time, resources, and people to achieve the impossible.

General Guidelines:

  1. Tell personal stories. We can find plenty of how-tos and best practices elsewhere on the internet. We are interested in the story behind the methods. Talk about a struggle, a breakthrough, a challenge. …


Vonnegut had Dresden, and I had Fallujah

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A soldier reading a novel in Vietnam, 1971. Photo: Christopher Jensen/Getty Images

People tell me I remind them of Kurt Vonnegut all the time. I have no idea why. Maybe I enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five so much I absorbed some Vonnegut-isms into my daily life. You can catch me muttering, “So it goes” regularly, usually under my breath so only the ones truly paying attention will pick it up. But it had to be more than that.

Vonnegut was a Hoosier (like me!) and was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana (not like me, but that’s okay!). I moved from Illinois to Indiana as a nine-year-old. When an adult asked me if I was “ready to become a ‘Hoosier,’” I asked what that meant. …


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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I’ve previously described how I used data from internal user testing to combat individual bias in design and user experience decisions. I’ll be the first to admit I have my own biases and assumptions about how people interact with technology. In fact, all of our stakeholders do, which can turn seemingly easy decisions into lengthy negotiations or passionate debates. I spend a lot of time refereeing conversations about how people THINK users interact with our software, but very rarely do we have a definitive answer. …


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Photo Credit: Chris Bulger

If Baghdad was the wheezing belly of a struggling nation, Kabul was just the opposite. It was a twisted shoulder or elbow splinted tightly to prevent any kind of movement. The underlying pressure was full of tension, constantly seeking relief, like a full teapot, begging to screech as steam escapes. Barricades and vehicle checkpoints made it nearly impossible to get anywhere quickly in the Kabul Green Zone, where the grinding gears of the city slowly worked its way through each day.

This time, it was 6 years after my encounter with the meek lamb-child in Iraq. I was with a group of analysts supporting the international security coalition, which required the occasional visit to higher headquarters, hence the travel through the Green Zone. This particular trip, my boss decided it would be faster to abandon our vehicle early and walk through the pedestrian checkpoints instead of trying to make it through the clunky, barricaded vehicle checkpoints. As we walked through the Green Zone, past the checkpoints and through many layers of fences, we stumbled across a cluster of children standing on the street corner peddling various small items. …


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It was a Wednesday and I found myself pulled into a meeting with a couple of our customer support folks and consultants representing one of our major accounts. The reason I remember it was a Wednesday was because this meeting fell smack dab in the middle of time I normally used to take care of some internal housekeeping — following up with engineers, talking through some of the workflows we were addressing, grooming the backlog a little bit, analyzing performance and user data. Things like that.

My Mondays were meeting hell that started with the team weekly sync, bizdev milestone update, ops milestone update, major deliveries and presales tech demo reviews, proposal reviews, cross-team coordination sync… basically everything but the kitchen sink. …


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After my first year as a Product Manager, the lead developer on our team was moved back into his engineering role, leaving me to drive on without his incredibly valuable input on major AND minor decisions. I was new to product management and commercial software, but was ready for the training wheels to come off and to help the team deliver kickass software to our biggest customers.


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The Green Zone in Baghdad, at least in the latter parts of 2006, was a little bit like the gut of someone who had been socked square in the solar plexus. Hard. Back then, I could feel the city wheezing, gasping for just one breath of air, while the city flexed its belly and fought against a quivering diaphragm.

Near the embassy, US military, coalition members, and Iraqis hustled back and forth from offices to trailers and large, hardened buildings. This was largely different from where I had called home for the last eight months. I had made the trip from the ruined, desert city of Fallujah to Baghdad with my (now ex) wife and we were set to venture out to pick up our expedited passports for a long overdue vacation. Our near-term destination was a satellite consulate building, far away from the commotion near the wrenched gut of the embassy. …

About

Bryan Lane

Director of Data & AI @ GSA | Former IBMer, US Marine, data hunter, cage fighter, and enthusiast of economics. Sharing my veteran voice and experience in tech.

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